This was a Soviet offensive by the forces of the Bryansk Front against the the German 2nd Panzergruppe and 2nd Army in the Bryansk and Sumy areas as part of the 'Smolensk Strategic Defensive and Offensive Operation' (30 August/12 September 1941).
The undertaking was the last of nine sub-operations within what the Soviets designed as the 'Smolensk Strategic Defensive and Offensive Operation'. The other eight elements of this undertaking were the 'Polotsk Defensive Operation' (2 July/16 July), the 'Smolensk Defensive Operation' (10 July/10 August), the 'Smolensk Offensive Operation' (21 July/7 August), the 'Rogachev-Zhlobin Offensive Operation' (13/24 July), the 'Gomel-Trubchevsk Defensive Operation' (24 July/30 August), the 'Dukhovshchina Offensive Operation' (17 August/8 September) and the 'Yelnya Offensive Operation' (30 August/8 September).
This offensive constituted an attempt by General Leytenant Andrei I. Eremenko’s Bryansk Front to destroy Generaloberst Heinz Guderian’s 2nd Panzergruppe of Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock’s Heeresgruppe 'Mitt' after it turned south toward Kiev. The offensive failed as a result of the over-dispersal of the Soviet armoured forces and poor intelligence, as a result of which the 2nd Panzergruppe inflicted heavy casualties on the Bryansk Front’s forces, significantly weakening it in advance of 'Taifun' (i), which was launched against Moscow three weeks later. The German troops continued their advance to the south, resulting in the encirclement battle for Kiev, the main city of Ukraine.
On 28 August, the 2nd Panzergruppe, diverted from its north-eastward progress in the direction of Mogilev, continued to advance to the south, crossing the Desna river near Novgorod-Seversky and Korop by the end of the day. The Stavka ordered a concentration of the warplanes of the air forces attached to the Bryansk Front and General Polkovnik Mikhail P. Kirponos’s South-West Front in order that powerful blows designed to blocking the advance of the 2nd Panzergruppe, but the Soviet aircraft failed to halt the German progress. By the end of 29 August, the leading Kampfgruppe of Generalleutnant Wolfgang Fischer 's 10th Division (mot.) within General Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg’s XXIV Corps (mot.) had driven forward some 12.5 miles (20 km) to the south, reaching positions to the north of the Seym river, itself 12.5 miles (20 km) to the north of Bakhmach, and in the process meeting and engaging elements of the 293rd Division of General Major Kuzma P. Podlas’s 40th Army near Korop and the LXVII Corps of General Leytenant Vasili Cherevichenko’s 21st Army’s along the Seym river. Podlas’s 40th Army, which became part of the South-West Front on 26 August, was responsible for defending the front’s right flank and maintaining contact with the Bryansk Front on its right. The army included the 135th Division, 293rd Division, 10th Tank Division, II Airborne Corps and 5th Anti-Tank Brigade.
At this stage of the 'Barbarossa' campaign, it should be noted, the XXIV Corps (mot.) averaged a daily operational strength of about 320 tanks (including 128 PzKpfw III medium and PzKpfw IV battle tanks, and 192 a miscellany of PzKpfw I and PzKpfw II obsolete light tanks, and command tanks) which was well below half of its strength at the beginning of 'Barbarossa'. At the same time, Generalleutnant Walter Model’s 3rd Panzerdivision reached western approaches to Glukhov, some 30 miles (50 km) to the south-east of the Desna river at Novgorod-Seversky, where it met 40th Army’s main body, including the 10th Tank Division and the 5th Anti-Tank Brigade.
Behind the 10th Division (mot.) and 3rd Panzerdivision, Generalmajor Willibald Freiherr von Langermann und Erlencamp’s 4th Panzerdivision of the XXIV Corps (mot.), and Generalleutnant Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma’s 17th Panzerdivision and Generalmajor Walter von Boltenstern’s 29th Division (mot.) of General Joachim Lemelsen’s XLVII Corps (mot.) were echeloned to the rear at Novgorod-Seversky and to the west of Trubchevsk. The 4th Panzerdivision was engaged with the 52nd Cavalry Division of General Major Konstantin D. Golubev’s 13th Army near Novgorod-Seversky and the same army’s main forces to the west of Trubchevsk. Farther to the rear, Generalleutnant Walther Nehring’s 18th Panzerdivision of the XLVII Corps (mot.) was quickly moving to the south from Roslavl while mopping up stragglers of the 13th Army in the 2nd Panzergruppe's rear in the area to the west of the Desna river.
To the west of the 2nd Panzergruppe, infantry divisions of Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian von Weichs’s 2nd Army pushed the remnants of Kuznetsov’s 21st Army and Golubev’s 3rd Army, both of the Bryansk Front, in the direction of Chernigov while eliminating the elements of the 21st Army surrounded in a large pocketed salient to the north-east of Chernigov and to the north of the Desna river.